US Congress told of epidemic of anti-trans violence

Kiesha Jenkins, 22, was beaten by a group of men and then shot twice in the back in Philadelphia last month

Kiesha Jenkins, 22, was beaten by a group of men and then shot twice in the back in Philadelphia last month

As the FBI reveals that hate attacks against transgender people have tripled, US congress members have heard testimony on the disturbing spike in transphobic violence.

On Tuesday, the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus held the first-ever Congressional Forum on Violence Against the Transgender Community.

The event followed Monday’s release of the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics for 2014, which showed that anti-trans incidents grew from the 31 cases reported to the FBI in 2013 to 98 in 2014.

It is only the second year that the FBI has kept track of such attacks, but thousands of US law enforcement agencies across the country did not submit data on these kinds of hate crimes.

The often deadly wave of transphobia has been described by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as an “epidemic of violence against transgender people – particularly transgender women of colour.”

A report issued by HRC and the Trans People of Colour Coalition earlier this month found that in 2015 alone at least 21 transgender people have been murdered in the US; nearly all of them were women of colour.

Speaking at the congressional forum, HRC President, Chad Griffin said that, “although the circumstances of each tragic loss have been unique, there are clear trend lines throughout this epidemic. It’s interwoven with other tragic realities that our country has struggled mightily with — including racism, sexism and poverty.”

He urged Congress to pass the Equality Act “to clearly and consistently prohibit discrimination against transgender people in every area of their lives.”

Griffin also called on legislators to make anti-bullying laws and policies trans-inclusive, to help teachers and school administrators provide support to the victims, and to ensure young people in foster care and on the streets have access to safe emergency housing, education and job training.

“We must end this violence and work together to provide meaningful answers that ensure a better today and a brighter tomorrow – a day when transgender kids grow up living full lives, free to be who they are without fear of discrimination or violence,” he said.

This historic forum included testimony from community organisers, activists, and service providers on the impact and causes of anti-trans violence.

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